Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:1-4 NKJVWe have looked the past couple of weeks at the words Peter wanted to share with us as he approached the end of his life and we have seen that his greatest concern was with the state of the Church. We first saw that our priority should be living truly godly lives as a witness to those around us, and second we were warned of the appearing of false teachers in the church who would teach a gospel different than the one Jesus taught. Here in chapter three of second Peter we find a warning of what we can expect from many in the Church, more than likely as a result of this false teaching.
Today we find in the passage above that Peter warns of people who claim to be believers actually “scoffing” at the idea of Christ returning for His Church. The word for scoffers can also be translated “mocker”, carrying with it the idea that these people simply do not believe in the rapture of the Church. Not content to cognitively disbelieve, these people choose to spread their unbelief by openly deriding the idea by asking the question “what is taking Him so long?” They then point out that nothing has changed since the creation of the earth, as if this explains their belief that Christ will never return.While many of us might wonder at how someone within the body might hold to this belief, I think this is simply a result of the false teaching we discussed last week that occurs within the Church. Notice that when Peter describes these individuals he not only calls them scoffers, he goes on to say that they are “walking according to their own lusts”. If you take a closer look at the “gospel” false teachers are spreading within the Church today you will find that the vast majority of them are telling people that it is just fine to “listen to your heart” and make up your own mind about what to believe rather than to listen to God’s Word.
I put it to you that this is simply another way of telling someone to walk after their own lusts, and in effect turns them into those who would mock others who choose not to follow that path. Now you might ask the question “how could someone exposed to the truth make such a wrong turn?” You would think that knowing the truth of the Gospel would certainly cause someone to think twice about believing something different. If we look further into this passage we find that Peter gives us a surprising answer to that question, and one that I personally find very hard to believe.For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:5-7 NKJV
When I first read this passage my eyes were immediately drawn to the word “willfully”. It is translated from the Greek word thelō, and look closely at what it really means; to will, have in mind, intend; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish; to love to like to do a thing, be fond of doing; to take delight in, have pleasure. In essence, Peter is telling us that these individuals do not simply “forget” the lesson of God’s judgment in the days of Noah, but rather they are resolved and determined to take pleasure in choosing to ignore that warning.Now did a light bulb just go off in your mind like it did in mine? Two thousand years ago Peter told us a day would come when the Church would suffer from an influx of false teachers who would tell us that God is a God of “love” and would never “judge” or “punish”! Why stop there? The next thing you know there will be teachers telling us there is no Hell! Sound familiar? But this is not all that Peter was told by God as he wrote this letter, and what follows should certainly be of interest to those who would have us believe that a “loving” God won’t return to “judge” His people.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 NKJVThe word for slack in the Greek is bradynō, which means to delay, be slow, to render slowly, retard, to be long, to tarry, loiter. Obviously Peter is trying to help us understand that God’s clock runs a little different than ours does and what appears to us as a very, very long time is but a moment to God. God has not forgotten His promise of what is to come, but rather He has chosen to give those who mock the opportunity to come to their senses and repent. The most important word for those who choose to mock that we find in this passage is “longsuffering”. It is the Greek word makrothymeō, which means to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others, to be mild and slow in avenging, to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish.
Have you ever spent any time around someone who has no patience? Have you ever observed, or experienced what happens when someone runs out of patience? What would our lives be like if our Father in Heaven was that impatient with His creation? We as the Church should fall on our knees in gratitude that God did not choose to judge the world when His very own Son was rejected as the Messiah. The very fact of His patience has allowed the Church to exist, and has given us the opportunity to choose to love and follow Him.It may have been two thousand years, but Peter reminds us that the time will come when the world will experience firsthand the judgment of the Father. Fortunately for those who choose to believe, we will be spared what Peter calls “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”